Section 3: Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is special gear used to protect the wearer from specific hazards of a hazardous substance. It is a last resort protection system, to be used when substitution or engineering controls are not feasible. It should be understood that PPE does not reduce or eliminate the hazard. It only protects the wearer and does nothing for anybody else in the area or for any equipment exposed to the chemical.

PPE includes gloves, respiratory protection, eye protection, and protective clothing. The need for PPE is dependent upon the type of operations and the nature and quantity of the materials in use, and must be assessed on a case by case basis. Workers who rely on PPE must understand the function, proper use, and limitations of the PPE used.

Glove Selection and Use

Gloves should be worn whenever the possibility of skin contact with hazardous chemicals exists. Every glove is permeable to a chemical. The permeability varies with the chemical being used, the length of time of the exposure and the thickness of the glove. General use gloves, such as the latex surgical gloves, are appropriate when using small amounts of most chemicals for short periods of time. These gloves should be changed whenever they become contaminated with the chemical. Otherwise, the glove that offers the best resistance to the chemical should be used. The following guidelines should be used to determine the appropriate glove.

  • Review the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the chemical of interest.
  • Determine the potential consequences of skin contact by the chemical.
  • Determine the exposure period and characteristic of the potential contact. That is, are you choosing gloves to protect you from an occasional splash or spill or are you planning to wear the gloves while you immerse your entire hand and arm in a container of material.
  • Determine which gloves or glove materials offer the best resistance to the chemical. This information may be found in the Personal Protective Equipment section of the MSDS or the glove vendor information.
  • Establish the dexterity and sizing requirements.
  • Determine physical resistance properties required of the glove. That is, resistance to heat, cutting, punctures, etc.
  • Other considerations - color, cuffs, length of glove, use of liners.
  • Establish a decontamination procedure. Be sure to check for pinholes before use, wash or decontaminate gloves before removing, and wash hands after removing.
  • In addition to protecting hands and skin from chemical exposures, there are many gloves which offer protection from physical hazards, such as high or low temperatures, electrical shock, skin abrasions, vibration or sharp objects. Always match the glove to the hazard.

Respiratory Protection

A respirator may only be used when engineering controls, such as general ventilation or a fume hood, are not feasible or do not reduce the exposure of a chemical to acceptable levels. The use of a respirator is subject to prior review by EHS, according to university policy, since their use is regulated by the OSHA respiratory protection standard.

Any worker who believes that respiratory protection is needed must notify EHS for evaluation of the hazard and enrollment in the Respiratory Protection Program. This program involves procedures for respirator selection, medical assessment of employee health, employee training, proper fitting, respirator inspection, maintenance, and record keeping.

Eye Protection

Safety glasses and goggles that meet the ANZI Z87.1 standard should be worn for protection from impact of particles. Standard eyeglasses fitted with side shields are generally not sufficient. Goggles should be worn when a potential splash from a hazardous material exists. They may be worn over prescription glasses. Face shields are in order when working with large volumes of hazardous materials, either for protection from splash to the eye or flying particles. Face shields may be used in conjunction with goggles for maximum protection from corrosives and hot chemicals. Contact lenses do not offer any protection from chemical contact.

Protective Clothing

When the possibility of chemical contamination exists, protective clothing, which resists physical and chemical hazards, should be worn over street clothes. Smocks are appropriate for minor chemical splashes and spills, while plastic or rubber aprons are best for protection from corrosive or irritating liquids.

Loose clothing (such as overlarge smocks or ties), skimpy clothing (such as shorts), torn clothing and unrestrained hair may pose a hazard. Perforated shoes, sandals, or cloth sneakers should not be worn in chemical use areas or where mechanical work is being performed.

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